NHL Extra: Breaking down Penguins vs. Rangers

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Looking for the numbers breakdown for how these two teams stack up? Look no further as we’ve got you covered as the Rangers take on the Penguins at 12:30 p.m. ET from CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.

PHT Previews

Pens coach Dan Bylsma keeps it together in Pittsburgh

Kris Letang slumping at the wrong time?

Are the Rangers playing Henrik Lundqvist too much?

Lundqvist plays today, Marc Staal and Sean Avery do not

Team scoring

Pittsburgh has scored 206 goals this season and plenty of those from guys not named Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Those goals are good for 12th in the NHL and their 2.83 goals per game is good for 10th in the NHL. They’re led by Chris Kunitz with 20 goals and Tyler Kennedy is next with 16. Kris Letang is their leading points man with 46 which includes eight goals and 38 assists from the blue line.

The Rangers do pretty well putting the puck in the net themselves. They’ve scored 210 goals this year, good for 10th in the NHL and at 2.81 goals per game they’re 12th in the league on average. The goals can come from a host of players. Ryan Callahan leads the team with 22, but Marian Gaborik and Brian Boyle each have 21 while Brandon Dubinsky has 20. Dubinsky is the leading points getter with 47.

Goaltending

A pair of all world goalies face off here. For Pittsburgh it’s Marc-Andre Fleury who might be the guy most responsible for how well they’re doing this season. Fleury is 31-17-5 with a 2.35 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. His play this year has been outstanding after a shaky first month of the year and he’s helped keep Pittsburgh in position to have home ice in the first round of the playoffs at least and could help lead them overtake the Flyers in the division.

Henrik Lundqvist has been similarly brilliant for the Rangers. At 30-24-4 he’s seen a heavy workload but his 2.35 goals against average and .920 save percentage with nine shutouts prove that he’s been worth it for coach John Tortorella to keep going to him this year. When Lundqvist is on his game and the Rangers defense helps him out, he’s almost unbeatable.

Special teams

If there’s a problem with the Penguins it’s their power play. They score at a 16.2% rate with the man advantage, a mark that ranks them 23rd in the league. Obviously being without two of the best scorers in the NHL plays into that, but it’s still a maddeningly erratic thing for Pittsburgh. The Rangers have been very good on the man advantage scoring 17.8% of the time. With that they’ve got the 13th best power play in the league but scoring against Pittsburgh’s penalty killers presents a tough issue.

Pittsburgh’s PK is the best in the NHL killing off 86.9% of the power plays they face. Getting one by the Pens when they’re down a man takes great skill and a bit of luck. The Rangers PK is average killing off 83% of the power plays they face, a mark good for 14th in the league. If the game comes down to special teams, we might be waiting a while for something to happen.

Streaks and standings

Pittsburgh is second behind Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division with 90 points. Those 90 points also put them fourth overall in the Eastern Conference just one point ahead of Tampa Bay. The Pens are six points behind the Flyers for first place but they’re playing well nonetheless having won four of their last five games and two in a row.

New York is in third place in the Atlantic Division with 80 points. They’re not a threat to catch either Pittsburgh or Philly in the division and are, instead, fighting for their playoff lives. The Rangers sit seventh in the East just two points ahead of eighth place Buffalo, four ahead of ninth place Carolina, and six ahead of 10th place Toronto.

Fighting and facewashing

Pittsburgh is one of the top fighting teams in the NHL so expect Rangers enforcer Brandon Prust to stay busy. As far as agitators go, Matt Cooke will play for the Pens while Sean Avery will be a healthy scratch for the Rangers. These two teams do not like each other at all so expect the agitation to come from everyone.

NHL Extra

If you’d like to ask James and I questions and get our thoughts on today’s game, you can join us for NHL Extra online and follow along with the action that way. To join us for NHL Extra click here. We’ll be kicking things off at 12:30 p.m.

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev

Report: Lupul will have ‘independent medical exam’

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Joffrey Lupul issued a statement Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t seek a second medical opinion after the Maple Leafs announced he didn’t pass his training camp physical.

A day later, reports have surfaced that the 33-year-old forward will, in fact, undergo another, independent medical test.

That is according to James Mirtle of The Athletic:

Earlier this week, Lupul made accusations against the Maple Leafs on Instagram.

“I’m ready … just awaiting the call,” Lupul wrote in the comments section of the Instagram post, per a screen grab. “haha failed physical? They cheat. Everyone lets them.”

Lupul, who didn’t pass his physical for a second year in a row, issued an apology yesterday. But those comments — which have since been deleted — seem to have grabbed the attention of the league.

Darren Dreger of TSN added to that, saying it’s the NHL pursuing a second medical opinion on this matter.

“The National Hockey League has that right to pursue the second opinion. That’s exactly what they’re engaging in right now,” Dreger reported Thursday.

“The reasoning behind it is because of the comment that Lupul made on social media. I’ll go back a year ago. The league didn’t step in a year ago but Lupul stayed quiet at that point. So they want to make sure — ‘They’ being the National Hockey League — that the medical evaluation from the Toronto Maple Leafs is 100 per cent above the board.”

Team USA won’t include NHL draft-eligible prospects at 2018 Olympics

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) General manager Jim Johannson has ruled out the possibility of the U.S. men’s hockey team having NHL draft-eligible prospects competing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Johannson tells The Associated Press he doesn’t view anyone from the 18-and-younger pool of prospects capable of cracking the projected lineup of non-NHL players, many of whom are opening this season playing in Europe.

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director says he’s also targeting a number of established college players, and would not rule out keeping a spot or two open for members of the U.S. team competing at the World Junior Championships this winter.

Johansson spoke in Buffalo, New York, on Thursday, where he is attending USA Hockey’s sixth annual All-American Prospects game. The game features the top 42 U.S.-born players eligible to be selected in the NHL draft in June.